As we move closer to the start of 2016, finance professional are not expecting a happy new year when it comes to skills in the industry.

A new report - '2016 Employment & Skills Outlook for Accountancy and Finance', from Savant Recruitment, specialists in accountancy and finance and supported by Cordant Recruitment, the second-largest privately owned recruitment company in the UK - found that half of senior financial professionals expect their company's ability to attract and retain the best talent to decline in 2016.

Recent reports by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (Apsco) showed a 16% rise in finance and accounting jobs across the UK, yet 75% of hiring managers speaking to Savant expect the rising difficulties in finding these professionals to increase over the next 12 months. As a result, 71% will struggle to cope with rising workloads next year and only 5% expect the situation to improve.

The report revealed that roles most in demand for 2016 will be those in Risk, Compliance & Governance as markets will be shaped by regulations such as Basel III (international regulatory framework for banks) and as companies look to safeguard against the prevalent risk of cyber and financial crime. Over 80% of those interviewed believe that these roles will be hardest to recruit followed by Accountancy and Financial Management (55%) and Qualified Accountancy (48%).

Commercial capabilities high on the skills list

Finance professional with strong leadership and commercial understanding will be high on the skills hotlist for 2016; half of those interviewed believe candidates with the ability to make effective commercial decision and to work strategically with teams across other areas of the business will succeed. This was followed by experienced management & leadership (43%), risk management (40%) and data analytics (38%). Skills in taxation, foreign languages and cost analysis were low (around 10%) on the priority list.

Mark Sheldon, managing director at Savant Recruitment, said “Working smart, mitigating risk, adopting new technologies and understanding or using data to make commercial decisions will be important factors for success, so it’s not surprising that key skills in leadership, commercial understanding, risk management and data analytics are high up on the much-needed skills list. As candidates become scarcer the specialist recruitment market will be under even greater pressure and firms will be looking to recruiters for their expertise to help in finding and securing the key talent they so desperately need.”

Harnessing disruptive talent

Despite recognising a growing concern in attracting and retaining key finance skills, Savant's report highlighted an opportunity among companies to utilise and nurture the talent within the business. One in five senior finance professionals admitted ‘disruptive’ individuals - people with the unique ability to innovate and challenge conventional wisdom - are not being recognised within their organisations for their unique potential. Around half (44%) of accountancy & finance teams believe they do not contain any ‘disruptive talent’, at a time when this is intrinsic to business performance.

Mr Sheldon said “Our report clearly underlines the ongoing concerns around recruitment in the finance sector; companies are all fiercely competing for the industry's top talent which is in short supply. But what is apparent is the seeming lack of vision with regard to nurturing disruptive talent within organisations. Having an element of ‘disruptive talent’ is a key asset, especially at a time when demand means that new thinking and new ways of working are needed.

"With around half of finance teams not containing any ‘disruptive’ individuals and another 20% not recognising the ones they have, it seems that more outside of the box thinking is needed if employers are going to overcome some of the challenges created by the struggles of increasing workloads.”

Pay increases expected across the board

Expectation over pay is rising in line with the skills shortage. The report found that over three quarters of those surveyed expect salaries to increase next year, with 14% expecting a pay rise of over 5%. Only 20% believe that salaries are unlikely to increase at all.

View the full report here.